Dashper X Files #26

X Files #26  (posted by Mark Dashper on 6/11/2005 from Warkworth, New Zealand)

What became of our highwayman relation James Dashper?
Who was he, and what befell him after his voyage on the 'death ship' in Australia? 

What do we know of the story so far . . .

In January 1797 Edward WILLS (19 years old), James DASHPER and William WOODHAM were arrested for highway robbery. The three men had used arms to rob John MARTIN of his watch, a half guinea, a sixpence and 18 half-pence. The money (£2.19.4) was found at Edward's residence.

While we know little about our James DASHPER,  we do know that his 'associate' Edward Spencer WILLS (a.k.a. WILLIS) was born 13 Aug 1778 London, Middlesex, ENGLAND;  Edward was christened 11th September 1778 St. Lukes, Old St., Finsbury, London, Middlesex, ENGLAND;  he died at the age of 33 years on 14th May 1811 in Sydney, New South Wales, after 3 months of illness.   Edward was 17 when he married  Sarah HARDING in 1795. Two years later he was on trial for his life.

The trial took place at Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey on the 20th March 1797. The three men were found guilty and all sentenced "to be hanged by the neck until dead". They had the right of appeal, so Edward had a petition made. The document addressed to the Duke of Portland was supported by the Curate and Church Warden of St. Luke's, Edward's old employer Millar RITCHIE, the victim John MARTIN, Thomas LOCK. At Whitehall on the 29th March, 1797, "Edward WILLIS and James DASHPER having been convicted of Highway Robbery, and having been humbly recommended as fit objects of the Royal Mercy His Majesty has now been graciously pleased to extend his Royal Mercy on condition of their being transported for the term of their natural lives to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales..." . We have no court record of William WOODHAM's sentencing.

On the 18th October, 1798 Edward and 55 other convicts were transferred from the hulk "Stanislaus" to the "Hillsborough". The convicts were to be housed in the lowest deck "where conditions were grim, because there were no port-holes to allow light and fresh air. For a bed each convict was given a two foot wide plank of wood, a blanket and a pillow. For clothing they each got two blue jackets, a pair of trousers, two pairs of stockings, two shirts, a pair of shoes and a cap. They were also allowed to take two gallons of wine for the voyage.

Edward WILLS, James DASHPER and William WOODHAM set sail from Portland Roads. on the 23rd December, 1798. The "Hillsborough" (see below) was to be nicknamed "the Death Ship" or the "Fever Ship" from their ill fated voyage. WOODHAM died on the way out of port. There were six woman aboard, one of them being Edward's wife Sarah with their infant daughter Sarah (Sally).

The "Hillsborough" arrived in Sydney on the 26th July 1799. On the following day Governor HUNTER wrote to the Duke of Portland explaining that the ship embarked with 300 convicts but arrived with only 205, with six dying within a day of arrival. Later, in a letter to KING, HUNTER described the "Hillsborough" inmates as being "a cargo of the most miserable and wretched convicts I ever beheld".

Edward became ill from the voyage but was lucky to become a ward of his wife Sarah who had "arrived free". The "Sydney Gazette" reported on the 2nd of October 1803 that Edward was fined £5 for purchasing seven ounces of stolen silver. On the 7th of October 1804, James BROWN and F.MOREY were sentenced to 100 lashes and three years hard labour for the robbery of copper coin and merchandise from the shop of E.WILLS. On the 19th of January 1805 a woman servant of E.WILLS was gaoled for stealing sundry merchandise from his house.

Edward's house was in George Street (later Essex Street), Sydney. The "Sydney Gazette" in April 1805 contained an advertisement listing sugars, teas, soaps, linen, muslin, shoes, dungarees, ribbons, etc. for sale at the house of Edward WILLS. On the 15th September 1805 the "Gazette" mentioned RABY and WILLS as being involved in the seal-skin business. Edward also advertised on the 24th of November 1805 looking for a "careful stockman".

Edward WILLS also went into shipping. The 66 ton "Mary and Sally" was built by Thomas REIBIE and Edward WILLS in 1806. In the same year these two partners are recorded as owning a sloop named "Raven". He also owned the 22.5 ton sloop "Eliza"
In June 1808 WILLS donated £30 to send John MacARTHUR to London to give evidence on behalf of Major JOHNSTON.
In April 1809 a burglar gained entry into WILL's shop via the chimney and made off with goods to the value of £100. Natives found the items, in less than an hour, hidden in rocks.

On the 4th September 1810 Edward WILLS was pardoned, under his alias WILLIS, by Major-General Lachlan MacQUARIE, Governor of New South Wales. WILLS was the victim of another burglary on 13th October 1810 where someone entered his unfinished premises and cut the duck covering off a new sofa.

When Edward WILLS died after three months of painful illness his assets were valued at more than £15,000.

Further information on: http://home.austarnet.com.au/dfgoonan/WILLSpg.htm 

X Files #26   James Dashper's ship . . . The Hillsborough : ship  of DEATH  

764 tons:   Capt. William Hingston.  Hillsborough was to be known historically as the "Fever ship" or the "Death Ship".  The voyage was organised by London Missionary Society (LMS). A noted convict aboard was William Noah.

Data on the ship  Hillsborough tells us she sailed from Portlands Roads, England , on Sunday, 23 December 1798 and arrived in Sydney, NSW on 26 July 1799.

One account notes:
"Three hundred convicts were on board the ship when it left England and the long trip to Australia was dreadful. Governor Hunter described it to the Under Secretary as follows - "Figure to yourself a ship having out of three hundred people embark'd in England, and having stopped for their refreshment several weeks at the Cape of Good Hope, yet hav'g upon her voyage buried of the above number ninety-five, and four since landing; those who still survive are in the most sickly and wretched state, put on board the ship in England with the cloaths only in which they stood, consequently arriv'd here naked, where cloathing is not to be found.

According to the description of the voyage by William Noah, a convict died nearly every day. Discontent was rife among the convicts who meted out a horrible punishment to one called Wiltshire, whose nick name was "Muckbolt", for telling the sailors who among the convicts had removed their irons and how they were plotting to seize the ship. The convicts dealt summarily with Muckbolt by giving him twelve dozen lashes, gagged him and put needles in his tongue so he couldn't put it into his mouth. Some wanted to cut off his tongue for having betrayed them. The Captain, hearing of this then inflicted most severe punishment on all the guilty convicts. They were also deprived of provisions and water. The voyage was so uncomfortable that "indeed Death would have been a welcome friend".

The Hillsborough was a large and roomy ship, and, according to the Transport Commissioners, had been fitted out on an improved plan; the bars on the prison being built far apart to admit the air more freely. She embarked 152 prisoners at Gravesend, and when she arrived at the Motherbank on November 17th 1798, her Master, William Hingston, reported to the Transport Board's agent at Portsmouth, Captain Charles Patton, that one convict died and several others were sick. Sir John Fitzpatrick, who had inspected the ship in the Thames, ordered the sick to be transferred to a hospital ship, and urged most strongly that the ship's complement of convicts should not be made up from the prisoners in the Langstone Harbour hulks, aboard which the gaol fever, or typhoid, had raged in a malignant form for some time. His advice was disregarded, as were his further protests after the Langstone convicts had been embarked. He insisted, however, that five prisoners, all in an advanced stage of the disease, should be disembarked, and all five died within a few days.

The Hillsborough sailed in a convoy from Portland Roads on 23rd December 1798, and at once ran into heavy weather. As her decks required caulking, and the sea was breaking over her continuously, the convicts' quarters were deluged and their bedding soaked. When the weather moderated a few days later, a youthful informer told the Captain that many of the convicts were out of their irons and intended to murder the officers. Those found out of their irons were flogged, receiving from one to six dozen lashes each, and were shackled and handcuffed, some with iron collars round their neck. The allowance of rations and water was also reduced, so that for several days the prisoners were half starved.

In all the circumstances it is not surprising that the disease carried aboard by the Langstone convicts spread rapidly, and from the beginning of January deaths became alarmingly frequent. Yet the convicts were kept closely confined and double-ironed, were short of water, and were half starved. It was, one would think, wrote William Noah, a convict who left a moving account of the prisoners sufferings in his diary of the voyage, enough to soften the heart of the most inhuman being to see us ironed, handcuffed and shackled in a dark, nasty dismal deck, without the least wholesome air, but all this did not penetrate the breasts of our inhuman Captain, and I can assure you that the Doctor was kept at such a distance, and so strict was he look after, that I have known him sit up till opportunity would suite to steal a little water to quench the thirst of those who were bad, he being on a very small allowance for them.

According to Noah, thirty convicts had died when the Hillsborough anchored in Table Bay on April 13th 1799. There were then about 100 prisoners very ill, and although fresh provisions were served, deaths became so frequent that the authorities were alarmed, and the ship was ordered to move to False Bay. Noah alleges that to avoid further interrogation, the Master buried some of the convicts at the Harbour Entrance, but within a few days the bodies were washed ashore. On may 5, by which time at least 28 convicts had died since the Ship's arrival at Table Bay, the Surgeon, JJW Kunst, returned from Capetown with an order permitting the sick to be landed. Why this step was so long delayed is incomprehensible but it was useless because no provision was made for the proper accommodation of the patients ashore. When 146 were landed on May 6 they found that their miserable hospital had previously been a stable and was without a fireplace, windows and lavatory accommodation, and next morning 56 of the prisoners were returned to the ship. When the Hillsborough sailed on May 29 at least 50 of the convicts had been buried at the Cape.

Governor Hunter, when the Hillsborough reached Sydney, described the survivors as the most wretched and miserable convicts I have ever beheld, in the most sickly and wretched state. almost every prisoner required hospital treatment. The frightful mortality was due primarily to the embarkation of the Langstone prisoners, but also partly to the harsh treatment of the convicts on the voyage. Noah's diary proves that they were kept double-ironed, and when on deck were chained together, so that they could not walk about at all, but had to stand up or lie down on the deck. They were inadequately fed, and, especially between the Cape and Port Jackson, the weather was so stormy that the prison was continuously damp and the convicts bedding seldom dry. "   
Source:   http://www.ozigen.com/tree/p549.htm  

X Files #26  (James Dashper's death recorded)

James Dasper (sic) has been located on the convict manifesto for the Hillsborough ( http://www.blaxland.com/ozships/ ) and after the name entry we see the notes "dov".  We can only surmise that this is an abbreviation for "died on voyage", and so this being the case,  we say goodbye to James presumably buried at sea.
Passengers arriving at Sydney
  Name                         Notes

Dasper, James

X Files #26  (new information posted 29/9/2006 by Judith Kimber from UK)

From the "Times" newspaper index, London Met Archives.

Wednesday 1st Feb 1797 page 3 Column 2

Monday evening as Mr Martin, Cowkeeper of the Wash Way near Brixton Causeway, in company with his brother, was going out to spend the evening, they were met near his house by 3 men and robbed of their watches and money. On the robbers running off, they passed near the patrole, who pursued and came up with them, when a scuffle ensured. One of the patrole was much wounded , but one of the robbers was secured. He laid his name is John Ashburn. On the prisoner was found a loaded pistol, and on the ground near him a watch, which Mr M’s brother swore to be his.

In consequence of an information, Edward Willes was apprehended on Old Street, yesterday morning charged with being an accomplice.

They were yesterday examined, but owing to the darkness of the night, Mr M nor his brother would not swear to their persons. They were however committed.

Wednesday 8th Feb 1797 page 3 column C

Edward Wills and James Dashper were charged with robbing Mr Martin, cow keeper, of the Wash Way, Kennington, as stated in this paper some days since, were re-examined and fully committed for trail.

Judith writes:  I still don’t know who this James Dashper is though. BUT I have some strange entries on my database as follows which seem to suggest another family in London in the 18C and possibly more info about James Dashper, though it doesn’t get any further.

  1. Mark Dashper son of Mark St James Clerkenwell Middx Cabinet maker to John Perry 22 dec 1780 Glovers Road Source  (source London apprenticeship abstract 1442-1850)
  2. George Dashper accused of fathering a child on Elizabeth Pounds Clerkenwell Trial 1793 Dec 05-07 (source - Database in London Metropolitan archives)
  3. George Dashper Tailor of Little Carter Lane City of London (source - Database in London Metropolitan archives)
  4. James Dashper (1763) of St James Clerkenwell, Chairmaker, apprenticed John Price for £5. (Ref 23/213 source – Derek Robinson)
  5. James Dashper (1767) of St James Clerkenwell,Chainmaker apprenticed Charles Moore for £5. (Ref 25/82 source – Derek Robinson)

X Files #26  (new information posted 1/10/2006 by Mark Dashper from Warkworth New Zealand)

Report of John Heath, on 1 collective petition (8 people, including previous and present employers, and church wardens of St. Luke's, Middlesex) and 1 individual petition (John Martin, prosecutor) on behalf of Edward Wills, letterpress printer, convicted at the Surrey Spring[?]

Assizes at Kingston (with James Dashper), for stealing a gilt metal watch and other articles, property of John Martin, printer, on 30 January 1797.

Evidences supplied by John Martin, Michael Martin, James Henderson and Thomas Drewett, both patroles [constables]; James Bord, George Pool and William Lloyd, spring maker.

There is a covering letter to the petition from Thomas Lack and a further letter from Lack enclosing a letter from the master of the prisoner, Millar Ritchie, stating he is willing to take the prisoner back.

Grounds for clemency: youth (under 19 years), first offence, jury and prosecutor recommend mercy, has aged parents, a wife and an infant child to support and his master willing to take him back into his employ.

Initial sentence: 7 years transportation.
Recommendation: no mercy.

Folios 127-138.

(Source: Item details: HO 47/21/22  Held by The National Archives, Kew,  http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATLN=7&CATID=-4446815&j=1  )

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